by Story Weaver
The fourth chapter, expanding on the town of Silkhaven and the mind of Jacob.
The bells of the entryway jingled once more announcing Jacob's return to the fresh air and newly arrived sunshine. The storm had passed, yet in its wake was a sheet of water that glistened at his feet reflecting the smile of the sun that now adorned the cloudless sky overhead.
Jacob wondered the length of the reading as he squinted heavenward allowing the heat of day to warm his cheeks. Time seemed to have moved at a regular pace, and yet the world he currently tried to embrace outside appeared to have little to no recollection of the rainfall from earlier.
Twisting his hat within his hands and contemplating all he had just witnessed; Jacob released a slight sigh as his eyes scanned his feet in thought.
Reaching into the inner breast of his jacket deftly, a lighter and pack of cigarettes was retrieved. As the lighter sparked crimson, a flash embraced his mind; memory of the painting within Annete's reading room as well as emotions that he wished to quell pertaining to his undetermined future.
"Got another?" a voice wandered into earshot.
Running his fingers through his hair Jacob ignored the question, believing it to be his own mind or a conversation not meant for his ears.
"Hey man, got another cigarette?"
At the realization he was being addressed his attention was given with a nimble spin on his heel towards the source of the voice.
Only a step or two away stood a man roughly close in age, intently awaiting an answer and certainly expecting it from Jacob.
"Shit" Jacob exclaimed mumbling through lips holding his own smoke. "Sorry about that, yes I got one." Returning his hand into his jacket he procured the pack and lighter once again, sending a cigarette on its way into the stranger's now open palm.
"Thanks" mumbled the stranger's lips.
A flick of black hair that nestled on shoulders revealed a pale white face as shoulders shrugged to meet flame and cigarette in matrimony. The man swung his head upwards casting his hair behind him as he exhaled the smoke towards the clouds, returning his gaze at last to Jacob.
"Passing through?" the stranger asked.
"Still deciding," Jacob answered, browsing past the man's shoulder to acknowledge three others resting on a wall of concrete attached to the storefront. "Jacob." his hand extended towards the stranger posing a physical greeting.
"Art" a handshake was formed. "Thanks again for the cig, don't mean to hold you up Jacob."
"Oh no, it's quite alright actually. I would most likely be standing here for the next hour alone with my thoughts anyways, the conversation is welcome." Jacob replied.
"Might as well meet these degenerates then?" Art spoke with chuckle, tilting his head towards the small collective that he appeared to have wandered off from.
"Might as well..." snubbing out his cigarette on the shole of his shoe Jacob followed Art the few paces it took to reach the group.
"It's boring. An absolute drawl, I mean how can you describe a landscape over the course of nearly a full chapter while you are led to believe that your heroes are constantly in harms way? Here I am, feeling as though danger may lurk behind every corner, every new page. Instead of a climax I get a description of hills and trees for fifteen full pages." The voice of a man exclaimed charismatically.
"Well if you had read the second one you would have half a mind to acknowledge the craftsmanship that Tolkien commits to when building his world. Regardless, the first has plenty of peril and-"retorted a female voice defensively.
"And fifteen pages describing a tussle with thorns and trenches of mud, for? Just to tell you they went the wrong fucking way!" The man spoke again hiding triumphant laughter. "Besides, if I wanted to experience boredom I could always just spend more time with you." The male voice slickly spoke escaping from a flirtatious smile. Eyes belonging to the voice turned their attention to Jacob; "And your thoughts on the trilogy?" The man asked.
Matching the briefly held stare Jacob observed the women sitting on the wall adjacent to the man, both appearing roughly close in age to himself and portraying minor playful annoyance across their faces for one another.
"Um, the trilogy?" replied Jacob questionably.
"Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings" the female said with a faint smile of innocence, allowing her mouth to be the only portion of muscles her body wished to move.
"Never read them. Should I?"
"Depends on who you ask of course." Art interjected.
"By the way, this argumentative duo goes by Stan and Rachel" Art spoke as he swayed his arm outward gesturing a command to admire the two as he introduced them. Sidestepping the pair Art then sat next to a second girl adorned with short black hair and stated "This peach is Deirdre" swinging his arm around her in charismatic comfort that in turn revealed neither joy nor anger upon her face, only apathy. Handshakes then were exchanged, Stan gripped tightly with a smile stating "Pleasure" through perfect teeth. Rachel remained seated yet unblinking displayed a pleasing half smile at Jacob and extended a tender hand. Deirdre made no motion to introduce herself besides a monotone "Hey".
"I've never seen you around before, are you staying in nearby or did Arthur just happen to interrupt you before you leave town?" Rachel asked with a look of fondness within her eyes.
"Oh, well I actually moved in quite recently. Small flat nearby, perhaps 3 blocks away" Gesturing with his thumb behind his shoulder Jacob met her eyes with his.
"This town sucks," Stan began. "The weather is cold, the beer is warm, the girls are...cold" Catching a stern glance from Rachel he continued and ended with a simple "What?" as he shrugged and cast his eyes into a sarcastic roll.
"If I didn't need a drink before I definitely do now with the two of you stealing all the oxygen around us for your senseless bickering" spoke Art as he flicked his cigarette into the street.
"She loves me" Stan nudged Jacob "She just won't admit it, but a drink does sound wonderful, Mr. Jacob, would you care to join. I am parched."
"Perhaps if you spent less time talking you would not be so thirsty" Rachel retorted.
"Yup, definitely drinking. Let's go, coming Rach?" Art asked as he and Deirdre stood and began to briefly stretch stiff muscles.
Looking at her watch Rachel's eyes flared with realization, "Damnit I'm going to be late for work. Sorry, so nice to meet you Jacob. Maybe I'll see you around." hurriedly grabbing a backpack resting at her feet she took one quick look at him and in turn he did the same, she then departed briskly crossing the street.
Feeling a hand rest on his back Jacob turned to realize Art stood beside him, thus snapping his concentration away from the girl that had just left. "Shall we stranger, more than welcome to join". "Misery loves company" Jacob chuckled, "Misery is on her way to work," Laughed Stan as he began to cross the street "Time to make some friends Jacob, welcome to Silkhaven."
Particles of dust performed dances throughout the dense air of the pub. Dimly lit bulbs of amber spread shallow light on the polished wood of the bar. Silence was only intruded upon by the occasional "clink" of drinking glasses and quiet melodies seething out of an outdated jukebox. Aging men with weary faces were scattered amongst the supplied seating, occupying their minds with endless liquor and meaningless conversation. Poison was served at a low rate and depression did not exist after enough consumption of it. A glass slammed the table drawing attention, smugly wiping his lips Stan belched and began to recline on the weary wooden stool.
"Disgusting" remarked Deirdre.
Stan smirked, winking flirtatiously "Love you D".
Art finished his own beverage and appeared to be stifling a belch. "So Jacob... I have to ask, why move here?"
"Yeah, what did you rob a bank? On the run?" Asked Deidre sarcastically. Jacob forced a chuckle and slowly sipped his own drink.
"What I mean, is why Silkhaven? Your young, attractive, this town is anything but that." Questioned Art inquisitively.
"Well, it's a bit of a long story. I suppose to put it plainly I was pretty done with where I was and needed something new. Silkhaven was not really a choice for me, more so destiny? I know that sounds strange, I just needed a bit of a revival and want to find myself."
"Nah" Stan jostled his index finger rhythmically in Jacob's direction, "You definitely robbed a bank."
Art took back control of the conversation "Shots?"
A fervent series of nods from Stan and a fit of laughter from Jacob and it was agreed upon. Art turned towards the bar calling to the bar tender as he held up his hand displaying the number four with his fingers. Observing Art, Jacob noticed that where his hair parted revealed a piercing on one of his ears. A silver crescent moon, dimly lit from the lights of the parlor yet glinting briefly enough to catch his eye. Art returned his gaze and attention to those at the table, briefly admiring Deidre as she lazily stared out the window of the pub ingesting the display of twilight outside.
The small glasses of coarse liquor arrived, and each member's hands reached for a separate glass. Deidre immediately rose the shot to her lips as Art's hand glided in between her mouth and the glass.
"Not yet dear, a toast." Art spoke calmly. Slowly returning his hand, Deidre responded with a playful bite of the air as her eyes fixated upon him. Hesitating for only a moment Art smiled admirably at her as the two seemed to have a fleeting conversation with their eyes.
Stan took the role of interjecting, "Collected conscience?" arching his hand skyward with a fist full of liquor.
"Soothing script" Art replied, raising his own glass along side Deidre as she muttered the same words unenthusiastically. Sensing a potentially missed opportunity Jacob raised his own shot leading to a resonating clash of glass and descendent rainfall of gold tinted alcohol. Stomaching the burn down his throat Jacob released a hiss of air with the others at the table. "What exactly does that mean?" he asked.
"What do you think it means?" Deidre questioned with a raised eyebrow.
"Pleasant thoughts among us that are constant and shared will lead to happy thoughts and times to come" Art answered, eyes focused on the floor below him as his body fought for control of sobriety.
"Think sweet be sweet, or else." Stan replied with a mouthful of laughter.
Suddenly two hands appeared at the table with ferocity "How far behind am I?"
"That time already? Swear we had been here an hour." Art responded, pulling back the sleeve of his shirt to reveal a watch. After noticing the time his eyes then panned across the table to marvel at the empty glasses strewn across it. "Definitely not an hour, how was work Rachel?"
"How was being a sentinel behind a counter bluffing interest in the same townie drama as every previous day? Angelic, I am honestly surprised I didn't need a degree for this job." Slinging her bag off her shoulder she rested on the chair beside Jacob. "How are you?" spoke her eyes and her mouth.
"He's phenomenal" said Stan, answering for Jacob.
"If anyone ever wanted your opinion Stanley I would plead to them to rethink before they lost all of their braincells." Rachel snapped with jesting ferocity.
"Could be better, and absolutely worse. How are you?" replied Jacob.
"In need of a drink." Waving towards the bartender for only an instant, her attention returned back to the table.
Nearly an hour had passed. Though natural light dimmed, the lights within their sanctuary of broken dreams never shined brighter. Each leave of a customer resulted in a metallic ring of an old-fashioned register, eerily complimenting the cobwebbed covered juke boxe's forgotten tunes. The atmosphere of jovialness dissolved into a swelling of solitude as night beckoned sleep; forcing the bartender to announce that all those who remained were interlopers.
Finishing a final laugh among his new acquaintances Jacob reasoned with his mind and acknowledged that it was time to start his journey homeward.
"Walk me home?" Rachel's hand lightly touched his arm demanding his eyes to acknowledge it. As he worked his view towards her own it was undeniable that he would be accompanying her.
The night was filled with autumn air, the kind that fills the lungs with flakes of snow and turns skin into soft gleaming marble.
"I'm a bit surprised Stan isn't walking you home" Jacob stated, deeply breathing in the refreshing air and observing the moonlight. Rachel released a bellowed laugh balanced with femininity and awe struck joy.
"That's hilarious." Slapping Jacob lightly on the arm. Halting suddenly she stared at him, "Wait you aren't kidding?"
"Well I mean him or Art?" Shyly Jacob shrugged, feeling the effects of the alcohol the longer he stood absent of movement.
"Oh no, Stan and I are not... were never. I suppose I can see why you thought that. Truthfully adore the man, that may be hard to tell." Their walk continued.
"Well, yes. In a way, old news. Not bad news though, just very old."
"None of my business either way, I enjoy them though. It has been a while for me. I missed not thinking with others, just being absent and enjoying life's simple moments".
"Do you not miss the moments that make you think?" Their journey came to a sudden stop once again. For the first time Jacob acknowledged the blue eyes that adorned Rachel's face.
"I suppose, yet sometimes those moment's make me want to do all I can to make sure that I never have to." Jacob answered fixated on her, silence echoing within his ears and moonlight cascading around them.
"And what about the people who make you think?" She quietly asked.
"Few and fair between, definitely few who leave me thinking".
"No shame in that Jacob." Rachel spun quickly on her heel so that she faced a rusted iron gate that had rested behind her. "This is home, thank you for the walk."
"Pleasure is mine"
"Reserve yourself Jacob, someone will give you something to think about." The gate creaked with defiance and her silhouette drifted toward the house, instilling a sense of yearning for an endless conversation and a thirst for words that never cease to be exchanged.
Head tilting back Jacob breathed once more the clean air, allowing his lungs to become numb with it as his eyes idolized the stars above his head. Each constellation began to dance as the moon erratically spun itself around his head, the urge came upon him after much suppression. Eyes closed, disavowing the scene above his head Jacob opened his mouth and released the suppressed vomit.